Old Gipson Inn Motel is undergoing transformation to a bed and breakfast
FORT WALTON BEACH — The old Gipson Inn Motel, a local fixture with a less than stellar reputation, is under new ownership and in the midst of a transformation that will turn it into a bed and breakfast.
Blake Dailey purchased the 20-plus-year-old structure in February. He has since gutted the interior and is not so patiently awaiting a Fort Walton Beach building permit so he can make the Gibson Inn "look like a brand new property."
"The review for permit is with the city and been there for too many weeks now," Dailey said. "I really think the area we are in is great, and we're really looking to improve the property to make it a real amenity."
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Dailey, a rental property development entrepreneur based in Lynn Haven, said he originally hoped to have the work completed and reopen the former Gipson Inn Motel by Memorial Day, but at present is shooting for the end of July.
A somewhat iconic structure located at 8 Gipson Place in Fort Walton Beach, the motel had fallen out of favor with its neighbors.
"It has been on the decline. It has always been a ratty-hole deal if you ask me," said the Rev. Cecil Williams, pastor of the Gregg Chapel AME Church located a street over from the old motel. "I've never been a fan."
Dailey said he had heard complaints from other neighbors as well.
"The reputation it had from local businesses was that it was not run well," he told a reporter.
"It is apparent from everyone I’ve talked to, from the nearby business owners to the city, that the past owner definitely didn’t do the property or neighborhood any favors," he said in a follow-up email.
The Gipson Inn Motel, previously owned by Tim Sheffield, advertised as having 10 air-conditioned rooms, bathtubs, refrigerators and flat screen televisions in every room. It was said to be clean, pet friendly and close to beaches and other tourist attractions. Visitors were tempted with the promise of an on-site library and outdoor tennis courts.
Most who stayed who posted reviews on websites like Kayak and Travelocity did not, apparently, like what they had found after they arrived.
"Felt like I was doing time at a halfway house," said one.
Others described blood-stained mattresses, cigarette holes in couches and a lack of basic amenities like housekeeping.
On Friday, a man who identified himself only as "Johnny" answered the telephone number that previously went to the motel. He wasn't able to provide many details about the history of the business or the future of the property. He did say the (former) owner, presumably Sheffield, would receive a message if a call to the same number he'd answered went to voice mail.
Dailey said his plans call for putting all new siding on the building and providing visitors a "more affordable, very nice, option to stay at in the city of Fort Walton Beach."
He said he is working with the owners of McKinnie Funeral Home next door on a deal that would provide additional parking for both Gipson Place businesses. A lack of parking for the motel was another complaint that appeared in travel site reviews.
Dailey said he wants to "completely turn the property around" and make his bed and breakfast something an entire community can be proud of."
"It will be a huge help to the area once we get it up and running," he said. "My goal with everything I buy is to rehabilitate and improve the product and the area. I'm hoping everyone will see the improvement and people in the city will really be surprised."